49ers beating Bengals hinges on frustrating Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

42. 7-5. 4:25 p.m. ET. 6-6. CBS. Sunday, Dec. 12. 56. 49ers -1.5

If the 49ers want to pull off a win over the Bengals in Week 14, they’ll have to make life awfully difficult on quarterback Joe Burrow.

It’s kind of a cliche statement. But when a team’s defense makes life extremely difficult for an opposing quarterback, usually that team winds up with the win.

One could make the argument that’s the No. 1 X-factor for the San Francisco 49ers in their Week 14 road bout against quarterback Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals, though, who are looking to get back atop the AFC North with a 7-5 record and want to put the sting of last week’s 41-22 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in the rearview mirror.

The Niners, meanwhile, saw how frustrating a quarterback can’t always do everything, as Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson bounced back from being thwarted for the first 1.5 quarters in San Francisco’s 30-23 loss at Lumen Field in Week 13.

While Wilson is always prone to be sacked, the same should apply to Burrow, too.

Like the Seahawks, though, the Bengals boast one of the league’s better wide receiver rooms with Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and the likely 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Ja’Marr Chase, which doesn’t bode well for a 49ers secondary that’ll be without starting cornerback Emmanuel Moseley because of an ankle injury.

Still, one of the best ways to negate an elite-level wide receiver corps is by applying pressure, and the Niners have the context to do it.

49ers have to bring the pass-rushing heat vs. Joe Burrow, Bengals

Burrow has currently taken 36 sacks this season, only one fewer behind the league leader in this category, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Additionally, Burrow has been sacked five-plus times in four games already in 2021, and that’ll be an element San Francisco’s defense will look to continue.

EDGE Nick Bosa, who once played with Burrow in college when both were at Ohio State, is looking forward to both hitting Burrow in this game and increasing his team-high 12 sacks on the season.

Yet no one else on the 49ers defense has reached four sacks on the season, the next in line behind Bosa being reserve EDGE Arden Key with 3.5.

Needless to say, the Niners will have to rely on others to get their sack totals up on Burrow in Week 14.

Fortunately, at least according to Football Outsiders, Cincinnati’s offensive line currently ranks 27th in pass protection with an adjusted sack rate of 8.4 percent. The opportunity is surely there for San Francisco.

49ers pressure can do more than just sack Joe Burrow

While sacks are always a good measure of just how potent a defense’s pass rush can be, it’s not the only measure, and there are plenty of other aftereffects that can stem from getting close to a quarterback.

According to Pro Football Focus, when pressured this season, Burrow’s passer rating is 61.9 compared to 109.5 when he’s kept clean. In addition to that, six of his 14 total interceptions thrown this season have come when facing pressure, and there’s a good chance turning the ball over will be another vital X-factor for both squads in Week 14, too.

Read More: Niners could be wrecked by Bengals elite wide receiver corps

From the 49ers’ vantage point, they’re 1-5 when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tosses an interception this season. As far as Burrow, the Bengals are 7-1 when he’s thrown no more than one interception in a game but 0-4 when he’s tossed two or more.

Perhaps Bosa and those pass-rushers need to coerce Burrow into being a bit more careless with the ball, as it might directly impact the Niners’ ability to win the game.

San Francisco and Cincinnati kick off on Sunday, Dec. 12 at 4:25 p.m. ET from Paul Brown Stadium.

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